Tag Archives: media kit

Press Kit Case Study, Part Two

Yesterday, I talked about the print materials that I included with the press kit for the first book in my current series. If you want to make an indelible first impression, that’s only a starting point. I’m now going to take it one step further.

I mentioned that you shouldn’t provide a simple press release in a manila folder. That much should be obvious. But if not in a manila folder, what will you use to contain this grab-bag of awesomeness you have assembled? If it’s just paper, you could get some full-colour customized folders. This gets dicey if you’re going to include a physical copy of your book, which I strongly recommended yesterday. (I still strongly recommend it today!)

My needs set me toward finding a box.

1. The box. Not just any box old box. This will be the first thing your box recipient will see. There are places online where you can design and purchase all kinds of beautiful customs boxes, but unfortunately you may find that some of them break the bank. If I had unlimited resources, I would have gone with something like these. The possibilities are endless. My budget meant I had to rely on my wits. With the help of a close family member, I got my hands on thirty white medium-sized pizza boxes. We delicately refitted them so that they were the perfect size for the book, with room on each side for extra materials, opening and closing with a clasp.

This involved a fair bit of work, because the last thing I wanted was to present my press kit in a box that shouted “Cheapskate!” The end result was highly professional. (If you’re interested in exactly how we refitted pizza boxes to look classy, well, that’s a post for another day; let it simply be said, without explaining the mechanics, that it’s quite possible when done with a skilled hand.)

2. The box label. Don’t make the mistake of addressing your box to “Reviewer,” or something equally anonymous. This is not a form letter. Every news outlet is going to have a person (or a department of persons) responsible for deciding what goes on the air, or on the page. Find out who those people are and address the boxes to them personally. In some cases, it may be advantageous to address your kit directly to on-air talent, specific columnists, or people in the organization with whom you have a personal connection. This helps you to control the success of your press kit, so that it doesn’t languish on the front receptionist’s desk for a few days before being dumped in the trash. Make sure it gets in the right person’s hands. In my case, I printed a graphic on the front of the box which identified the recipient; the graphic I chose matched a graphic from the cover of my book, making sure that both the product itself and the box it came in looked like they belonged together.

3. Personal letter. Another personal touch I included was a short letter introducing the book and my marketing effort to the particular recipient. If I knew something about the box’s recipient, this was the place to take advantage of it. Each letter was slightly different from the next, due to its personalized nature. The contents of the letter was a little bit redundant with the press release, except much more intimately presented (no… not that kind of intimate). The letter was printed on a small narrow band of distressed paper, rolled up in a scroll, and tied with a short length of twine. Each was signed by hand. This was designed to be the first item of the kit which was handled by the recipient. It was the figurative opening handshake.

4. An invitation. I included an invitation to my launch, inside a hand-addressed envelope. These invitations were provided to me by the bookstore where my launch was held, saving me a bit of effort. The bookstore’s logo (a major retailer in my city) lent a further air of professionalism and credibility.

5. Goodies. We’re getting to the end now. I wanted to include a couple of extra trinkets, but I didn’t have much time or money. Ideally, your goodies should be a specific complement to your book. I didn’t have quite enough time to prepare something as cool and intricate as I would’ve liked, so I settled for customized pens and notepads. I designed and ordered these through a local printing company, and I got an excellent deal. The pen and notepad contained my book title, my series title, and my official website. I distributed these pens far and wide, and every once in a while I still see them out in the world when I go to the bank or visit a local restaurant. I also used these pens at my signing; for each book I signed, I used a unique pen, and then gave away the pen to the person buying the book.

Finally, a note about packaging: if you go this route, of preparing and filling a box, make sure it packs tightly. The last thing you want is for the contents of the box to be messy when it’s opened by its intended recipient. Pack it in such a way that it can be turned on its side and flipped around a few times without disturbing what’s inside.

I sent my finished kit to radio stations, newspapers, magazines, bloggers, libraries, and a few prominent local authors who I hoped might lend some support. The final result is that I received responses from just less than half of the people I sent it out to. Considering that I was a first-time author with virtually no platform or publishing history, I believe that was a really big success. I’m hoping that by repeating this effort, my response will improve with every release.

I hope my experience and advice has been helpful. All the best in preparing your own press kits, and if you have questions, leave them in the comments!

Press Kit Case Study, Part One

Marketing doesn’t come easily or naturally to me. It surprises me that there are any writers out there who enjoy hawking their books. I accept that it must be true; I just can’t in any way, shape, or form relate to such people. I just want to write. I want to finish a book, then immediately start the next with nary a further thought.

Sadly, this is not the way the world works—especially not for indie writers, who can’t depend on publishers to get the word out. The truth is that even traditionally published authors can’t depend on their publishers these days, unless they happen to be so utterly famous that they hardly need the big push.

A year and a half ago, I released the first novel in my ongoing series (Amazon, Kobo), and was faced with the conundrum of what kind of marketing efforts to undertake. I planned a book launch (which was extremely successful), made various appearances, did a signing or two, and in general did everything I could to connect with readers. But I was faced with the dilemma of having to market not just the book, but the launch. I had to get people’s attention, and the most obvious way of doing that is going through the media.

Fortunately, I have a communications degree in which I studied journalism, advertising, and public relations. (And yet I hate most of those things, go figure.) I knew I had to assemble a press kit that contained more than a standard press release stuffed in a manila folder. I had to turn it into an event.

Today, I’m going to begin by writing about the press kit’s printed materials. I included glossy prints of the following (all with full-color letterheads and photos, which were color-coordinated to match the book’s cover):

1. The press release. This is obvious, but crucially important. Like most written forms, there is a stylistic expectation that comes with a press release, so conduct some research on what a press release looks like. It’s the only way to ensure that you come off professionally. Most media outlets receive dozens of press releases a day, however, so a slavish submission to form can be counterintuitive. There are ways to thread the needle between meeting expectations and raising eyebrows. (If I could tell you how to accomplish this for your unique project, it wouldn’t be unique.) I also signed each release by hand—a personal touch to signal that this wasn’t a form letter. This was just one of many personal touches, which I will go into a bit later.

2. Book information. On a separate sheet, I included the back cover copy, along with the ISBN number, the page size, the page length, and the release date.

3. Author bio. This page included a high-res, professionally-taken headshot. It’s impossible to stress how important it is to get a professional to take the picture. My photographer even went to the trouble of digitally removing some skin blemishes and whitening my teeth. The author bio should be pretty self-explanatory, and again I strove to find a balance between professionalism and light-heartedness. I explained my career, my background, and my interests; combined, these served to provide some qualifications for the kind of book I’d set out to write.

4. Interview questions. The goal of a press kit is to get… you know, press. But your local radio personality, newspaper columnist, or blogger may not have the time to read your 400-page book on a week’s notice to get the word out about your launch. The people writing articles about you, or conducting in-person interviews, will likely not have read your book. That’s just how it is. They won’t want to sound ignorant, so either they will (a) not bother giving you coverage at all, or (b) need some help deciding what kind of coverage to provide. You can give them that help. Provide some interview questions, a starting point from which you can address the FAQs of your book. Also include your answers, of course! I included eight questions—and yes, some of them were used. This practice also provides some comfort to you, in advance of a media interview, to know some of the questions you will be asked. Finally, don’t forget to include (both here and in several places elsewhere in the press kit), clear contact information for scheduling interviews.

5. Character sketches. The above are all expected parts of the press kit, but I wanted to include a few extra touches. I included a page of character sketches in which I teased each of the book’s three main characters and their roles in the story.

6. Further extras. It doesn’t hurt to go still further above and beyond. In the case of my first book, I had started a blog just prior to the release of the book. The blog was written from the point of view of one of the main characters. I provided information about this blog, explained its purpose and content, then included the first two entries as written samples. I ended up getting a request from a major news outlet to reprint these samples on their website, which I was only too happy to oblige, as they provided excellent teases.

And, oh yeah, in case it wasn’t already obvious:

7. Give them a free, promotional copy of the book. Not every indie author has an in-print paperback version of their book to give away, but don’t be stingy if you have them. Probably the biggest advantage of having a physical book, for marketing purposes, is that it provides you with the perfect billboard of your book. The book itself is the poster. Don’t ask a media outlet to review your book or give you coverage without actually giving them a copy. Thus, the first thing someone will see when they open your press kit is the book itself, its glossy cover staring up at them in all its glory.

There’s a lot more to this press kit business, and so far I’ve only explained the initial printed materials. This only accounts for half the kit’s contents. Come back tomorrow to read about what other goodies I included.